World digest 11/12/03

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Al-Qaida e-mail claims bombing responsibility

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A purported al-Qaida claim of responsibility blamed Arab victims of Saturday's bombing attack for working with Americans.

The claim came in an e-mail from a purported al-Qaida operative, identified as Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj, to the London-based weekly Al-Majalla.

"We struck Muhaya compound," Al-Majalla quoted al-Ablaj as saying in the e-mail. Al-Qaida, it said, believes "working with Americans and mixing with them" is forbidden.

American and Saudi officials had previously blamed Saturday's attack that killed 17 people on Osama bin Laden's terror network. Saudi officials have portrayed the attack as proof of al-Qaida's willingness to shed Arab and Muslim blood in its zeal to bring down the Saudi monarchy.

Russian court rejects oil tycoon's appeal

MOSCOW -- A court rejected an appeal Tuesday by Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to be released from jail before his trial on tax evasion and fraud charges.

His attorney, Anton Drel, told reporters the ruling likely would be appealed either to the Russian Supreme Court or to the European Court for Human Rights.

Khodorkovsky was arrested Oct. 25 amid a four-month investigation of his oil company, Yukos, that critics said was a Kremlin-backed bid to curb his financial and political clout after his funding of opposition parties. Last week, he quit his job as chief executive of Yukos, Russia's largest oil producer.

N. Korea demands U.S. pay penalty over reactors

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Tuesday it will seize equipment for two nuclear power plants being built in the country, until the United States pays a "penalty" for its decision to stop their construction.

Last week, the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union tentatively decided to suspend work at Kumho, a remote northeastern coastal village where they have been building two light-water reactors to generate badly needed electricity.

They say that halting the $4.6 billion project is inevitable because North Korea has violated a 1994 agreement by secretly building nuclear weapons.

British-built craft to land on Mars Christmas Day

LONDON -- A British-built craft designed to scour the surface of Mars for signs of life is scheduled to land on the planet on Christmas Day, scientists said Tuesday.

The Beagle 2 is traveling aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express craft, launched June 2.

Scientists said Tuesday that the spacecraft was expected to reach the planet in mid-December. On Dec. 19, the craft will eject the Beagle 2 -- a 132-pound shell shaped like an oversized wok and packed with scientific instruments. If all goes to plan, it will parachute to the surface on Dec. 25, flip open and begin conducting experiments.

Strike in Dominican Republic leaves six dead

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Police fired rubber bullets at rock-throwing protesters Tuesday during a general strike that paralyzed the nation. Protest organizers said at least six people were killed and 60 injured.

Police said they could not confirm any deaths or injuries from the strike.

Most businesses closed, classes were canceled and public buses were idle. Traffic in the capital came to a standstill as soldiers randomly searched vehicles for weapons.

-- From wire reports

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